Backyard Meat

Image from The Reluctant Gourmet

If you are a vegetarian then once again this post is not for you.

On Saturday, June 5 from 8:30 – 10 I’m once again venturing into new territory and would like to drag a few of you along with me.

Brad from Abundant Acres will be showing us as much of a backyard rabbit operation as we want him to, conveniently at his condo in Bellevue versus his farm in Toledo, WA.

If you eat meat and are striving for a sustainable lifestyle rabbits are the optimal meat source. They are highly efficient processors of food to meat, require a small amount of space and little to no carpentry skills to get set up. Processing them compared to other animals is quick and easy, requiring no special equipment or setup. The offal can be used as raw pet food or go into the garbage can or compost.

You can control the number of rabbits by managing the amount of time your breeding stock spends together and because they live in enclosures rather than in a yard setting you can have them on an apartment balconies or outside in virtually any scrap of yard you can spare. Cages are fully closed and stack-able which allows for efficient vertical farming and helps protect them from urban critters like raccoons, dogs and cats.

Brad has consulted heavily with Daniel Salatin of Polyface Farms in setting up his rabbit operation. And tho the rabbits are housed at his farm in Toledo, WA he maintains a city life, family and several business in Seattle as well so we’ll get to glimpse his personal rabbit quarters at his home in Bellevue.

Brad can give you guidance on setting up your own backyard rabbit operation but the main thing he is doing for us is demonstrating how to process a rabbit. We’ll be buying a live rabbit from him (or you can arrange to buy breeding stock of your own) and processing the rabbit ourselves. You will leave with a processed rabbit for your fridge or freezer and a new set of life skills to live more sustainably, not to mention a new way to significantly reduce your food bill should you choose to set up your own meat operation.

If you are interested in attending this lesson please email me ASAP since there are only a few spots left open. It’s annettecottrell(at)

17 Responses to Backyard Meat

  1. I live in Ohio so I can’t be there but I would LOVE to know more. I still have to talk the bf into this, but it’s an idea I’ve been playing with for a while.

    I’d love to know what Daniel has learned from the Salatins … any chance of a guest post?

    I look forward to your post after the lesson! (Yup, I’m both presumptuous AND greedy.)


  2. Wow, your post is timely. I have just started researching raising rabbits but it will be awhile before I start such an adventure. I live just south of you and if I could travel, I would so be there. But not well enough yet. BTW I helped butcher rabbits when I was a kid and it is far easier than poultry.

  3. Not to be dim but “We’ll be buying a live rabbit from him and processing the rabbit ourselves” means doing it right then and there?

    After reading this post, I finally had the nerve to open another blog post entitled “How to cut up a rabbit” so I’m making baby steps.

    I don’t think I have the stomach for this one though. Good for you, I say!

  4. Sounds really interesting! I emailed for more info. Thanks!

  5. I’m really, really tempted. BUT, we just found out that our HOA covenants say no chickens, no meat animals… :( I should probably wait to learn until I have a way to raise rabbits.

  6. Trini sorry you can’t make it! I know it’s not exactly a dream vacation…come to Seattle to learn to butcher rabbits. ;p I was going to ask him to do a blog post but not sure he will. I’m hoping to get the process on camcorder rather than post still photos because I know I have some vegetarian readers who prefer to not see that.
    Konnie, I actually was surprised at how easy the pig was and chickens is what made me realize I could handle this. I’m not sure what that says about me. Hopefully that I’m practical. I know I could not have done this before having kids. All those poopy diapers really change you.
    Tiffany you can still come see the process and not get a rabbit if you want.
    Laura I just emailed you back – hope to meet you!
    Myrnie, yes no point in driving yourself batty. Sorry about your HOA. That bites!

  7. Ah, sorry, I definitely meant “I’d love to know what BRAD learned from the Salatins” (although it’d be great to know everything Daniel knows, too!)

    A video is a great idea – thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  8. Cool, what a good experience. Two summers ago, I helped a local farmer butcher rabbits one day and was not only fascinated, but very satisfied knowing that the meat we brought home came from animals that had had a good life and, also importantly, a good death.

    As with so many things, moderation and variety is the spice of life, especially with your active growing boys, so I doubt this would be an issue, but just be aware of the risks from eating too much lean meats, or “rabbit starvation”:

    Given your picky eaters, I just figured it fell in the “good to know” category, but unlikely to be an issue.

  9. Dana,that’s a good point. I have two very skinny boys who need tons of fat. I’ll save the bacon for them and eat the rabbits myself. ;p Thanks for linking to that. I’m glad to hear from you – you’ve been so quiet lately!

  10. When I was young my family lived on a mini farm and my folks raised several hundred chickens a year and quite a few rabbits. The chickens were both egg and meat birds and the rabbits were strictly for meat. I do not remember the rabbit butchering process as I was too young to be part of it – but I certainly do remember the freezer full of processed chickens and rabbits from our own property.

  11. KFG it’s interesting you had that childhood and it instilled a love of self sufficiency in you. It seems many who grew up like that went the opposite direction, like my mother. I wonder what this will mean for my kids?

  12. This has been on my mind since the day you posted, so I had to come back and ask: the rabbits are raised in cages…stacked vertically….so minimal space is involved. Do rabbits not need to roam? Do they ever come out of their cages? (We’re not going to be able to raise rabbits any time soon, but this question has been driving me batty! Thanks for humoring me.)

  13. Hi Myrnie,

    They do need space to hop so the cages are sized appropriately, bigger than what you see in a pet store. If you’ve seen the cages at the zoo that is appropriate, theirs are multi story so the bunnies can go up and down a ramp and have more than one main space.

  14. Belatedly catching up on my blog reading, but thank you for putting this class together! I’m excited/nervous/vaguely nauseated about the whole thing. I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to handle the whole process, since I was definitely raised in a “rabbits are friends, not food” household. Guess we’ll find out! I’ll try to keep the shrieking to a minimum for the sake of your video…

  15. Jess, I was as well. It’s perfectly fine to change your mind once you are there too but at least you’ll know more about the process. I feel it’s important for anyone who eats meat to at least know what that means.

  16. Greg Neumiller

    While I concede that your meat rabbits may fare better than even many pet rabbits, why do you consider chickens as more deserving of a cage-free environment?

  17. Hi Greg,

    I don’t at all see them as more deserving and that is my dilemma with meat. Until I can find a way to have rabbits in an enclosure that is a better home for them (ie more room to hop around) I won’t be getting them. Nor will I be raising meat chickens in a tiny tractor. I’ve come back to eating grass fed beef and lamb and wild caught fish in the last weeks. It seems like the quality of life they have is better. I will still occasionally eat chickens and quite possibly rabbit because none of the choices is perfect ecologically or ethically but my health suffers when I don’t eat meat. You are absolutely right though, nothing is more deserving than anything else. My goal is to find the most sustainable and ethical solution and I’m not there yet.

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